Meet our student researchers – Matt Goins


Thinking of applying for an AWF student research grant? Find out what it’s like to undertake a student research project and get advice from previous researchers in our mini Q&A series.

Research topic: Characterising the abandonment and relinquishment of exotic pets in Ireland


Name, degree, university

Matt Goins, MVB (5th year), University College Dublin  

Research topic and why you chose it

This topic is about characterising exotic pet relinquishment/surrender in the Republic of Ireland, so we’re trying to investigate how common it is for an animal welfare charity to accept exotic pets, how often they accept exotic pets, and some of the reasons why owners surrender or relinquish their exotic pets to animal welfare charities. These are areas that have been investigated to various levels in more common pet animals, such as dogs and cats, but haven’t really been looked into even outside of Ireland for exotic pets.   I have done a couple of other research projects investigating and characterising the exotic pet population in Ireland, their ownership, and their access to veterinary medicine and in doing so I’ve collected data on exotic pets from their owners and veterinary professionals. Branching out to animal welfare charities operating in Ireland was a logical next step to learn more about a pet population for which there's a lack of data.  

What made you apply for an AWF Student Grant?

I applied for the grant as welfare is a huge concern for exotic pets in Ireland, as well as throughout the world, since there’s so little publicly available data. Animal welfare laws and regulations tend to lag behind other areas of animal related law, and application of those to exotic pets specifically tends to lag behind domestic pets. Additionally, it’s difficult financially to take the time out to do research during vet school when you could be working to offset some of your student loans, so I may not have been able to undertake the project without the AWF funding.  

What have you learned from your research project so far (focus on your personal development; not project results)?

I have learned a lot about communicating and liaising with animal welfare charities across Ireland, I’ve gained more experience conducting systematic literature reviews and using software such as ArcGIS and Microsoft Excel, and I’ve been exposed to grant writing. I’ve also gained a greater understanding and appreciation of the issues facing employees and volunteers of animal welfare charities in Ireland.  

One piece of advice you’d give to future applicants

My advice to future applicants would be to start planning your project as early as possible and do a project you’re really interested in.